The following was extracted from the book Rabaul, 1942 by Douglas Aplin

With the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, Australia suffered the greatest single tragedy of the war in the Pacific. The fate of those who had embarked at Rabaul on the Japanese Naval auxiliary transport on 22 June 1942 remained a mystery for three years, though the remaining internees learned of the tragedy on 11 July 1942. Prior to boarding, all had been living under primitive conditions, subjected to brutalities and indignities, and under bombardment by the RAAF planes while at forced labour in the Blanche Bay area and in the unmarked compound. At the end of May 1942, the Japanese Army handed the Camp over to the Navy, in preparation for something, thought to be the invasion of mainland New Guinea.

At about 4.30 am on 22 June 1942, Japanese marines and guards roused the camp and organised the internees into parties of fifty. The officers and a dozen or so civilians were retained in the camp. It was learned from one of the guards that the transfer was to the island of Hainan, off the coast of China. Half starved and ill, the men marched from the compound at 9.00 am, with a smile and a cheery farewell for those remaining, the stronger supporting the weaker, arm in arm as they boarded the ship. Final recognition of the sinking was acknowledged in a letter from the Japanese Navy dated 6 September 1943, as a result of enquiries by the Australian Government through the Protecting Power, but the enquiry had at that time been ignored. A Nominal Roll of the men stated to have been on board was also secured, but the roll was written in Japanese characters, representing a phonetic and not an actual spelling of each name and had to be retranslated.

A.I.F. 2/22 Battalion, Regimental Band

Every member of the 2/22 Battalion Regimental Band was originally a Salvation Army Bandsman. Of the twenty-four who enlisted, only one survived their deployment to New Britain in 1941. Jack Stebbings was killed on 23 January 1942 while riding. William Haines and Ronald Cook died at Tol Plantation on 4 February 1942. A. Creed lost his life on one of the mountain tracks of New Britain. Frederick Meyer died on 27 April 1942 of illness at a mission station and Stanley French died on 15 February 1942.

Bandmaster William Gullidge and bandsmen Wilfred Trigg, Raymond Cairns, Kenneth Drew, Albert Fry, T. Henderson, Harry Harvey, Mervyn McPherson, Francis Meddings, B. Morgan, Stanley Parker, Harold Pannell, John Robertson, N. Smith, M. Thomas and Reginald Watkins were listed as being on board the Montevideo Maru when it was sunk on 1 July 1942.

The only survivor was Fred Kollmorgen.

In One Bloke’s Story, page 27, Rob Mitchell writes

The Salvation Army band, or should I say the Battalion band, continued to add colour to army life at Bonegilla. Occasionally the band would march around the camp in the early morning playing bright and happy tunes. On a few of those occasions the drummer, a short, rotund man with a big brass drum balanced out in front of him, would march along wearing only a towel. What a sight! The band, being Salvationists, naturally took part in the life of the local Salvation Army Corps. Some opposition arose from the military hierarchy regarding their playing at the Salvation Army open air meetings. Eventually the order came through that no Army personnel were to stand at street meetings. After that they marched around in big circles during the street meetings until they were finished.

Further resources


Lindsay Cox: Brave and true: from blue to khaki, the Band of the 2/22nd Battalion. The Salvation Army, Australia Southern Territory, Archives & Museum, 2003. 136 pp.

Newspaper Articles:

Neil Wilson: ‘Band’s Tribute to Echo War Tragedy; Salvo Musicians to Honour their Fallen Heroes’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia, 18 January 2002. p. 25.
Neil Wilson: ‘Survivor Recalls Salvos’ Last Stand: The Sound of Music a Bittersweet Memory’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia, 18 January 2002, p. 12.
Neil Wilson: ‘Salvos to Salute War Band Heroes’, Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia, 15 November 2002, p. 27.

See also: Robert A. Mitchell: One bloke’s story 1937 to 1946: Henry Mitchell’s MM escape from Rabaul. Development and Advisory Publications Australia, Dubbo, New South Wales, 1998, 188 pp.